Smith-Cotton High School English teacher Corissa Beck took her students outside last week after they read October Sky by Homer Hickam.

October Sky is described by Amazon as “a heart-warming memoir of a teenager's life and his fulfilling his dreams of becoming a rocket engineer even though his Dad wanted him to become a mining engineer.”

The students were asked to build a rocket out of simple materials and bring them to the “launch pad” (a 3x3-foot plywood board) on the football field on the S-C campus. There were three classes of students involved, and we got to watch one class launch on Thursday morning.

Miss Beck explained the reasoning behind the science activity in an English class:

“Students read the novel, "October Sky," in class over the last six weeks and brought the rockets to life in the real world. This novel is set in the late 1950s in Coalwood, WV. Sputnik was launched Oct. 4, 1957 (Soviet Union's first satellite), and this event is what drives the novel around high-school boys building rockets and wanting to create the fastest rocket that will go as high as possible. The novel demonstrates bravery and staying true to who you are and your goals in life. The main character, Sonny, does not want to work in a coal mine which is what his father does for a living. This novel also includes a lesson in history when the U.S. was in competition with producing technology faster than the Soviet Union for space purposes,” Miss Beck said.

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“The students read about taking chances and overcoming obstacles in order to follow your dreams and passions in life. After completing the novel, the students formed groups in order to build their own rockets to launch. They worked together as a team and used their critical thinking skills as well as cross-differentiated lessons from science and math courses in order to construct a non-explosive rocket to launch off the ground. We used part of class time to allow groups to draw their plans, write out the steps and also list materials needed. On the day of launch, the students put their plans to the test! Many were very successful with launching. Best of all, the students seemed to enjoy their English class on Launch Day. I am very proud of my seniors and their growth over the school year. This is my first year teaching and I am positive this generation of students will launch into the "real world," ready to take charge,” she concluded.

We asked Miss Beck to give us a little bio on herself:

“I’m 33 and finally started my teaching career. I am just so happy and love working for this school. I was active duty Army for four years and spent a year in Afghanistan. Then I spent four years in the reserves and went to KU for my bachelor's. I spent six years as a restaurant manager. I finally started teaching last fall and my life is just so amazing. I am completing my master's online and my kids are my world. This school year has been one of the best years of my life and I’m thankful for you wanting to capture some of these memories with my students during my first year,” she said.

Rocket Launchers at Smith-Cotton

Gallery Credit: Randy Kirby

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